The team at the Orkney Distillery and Visitor Centre
The team at the Orkney Distillery and Visitor Centre

The Orkney Distillery and Visitor Centre, which opened its premises to visitors just over a year ago, is celebrating after having achieved its Five Star Quality Assurance award at its first grading visit.

The distillery and visitor centre which is situated on Kirkwall’s harbour front, is the home of Kirkjuvagr Orcadian gin and received the award from VisitScotland. 

In the short time it has been open, the small team has hosted thousands of people on distillery tours, developed and launched four new gins and hosted a number of events ranging from the St Magnus International Festival to an evening with the Consul General of Japan.

Its 11 staff – headed up by Operations Manager Katie Macleod – run the distillery as well as offering tours twice a day (more frequently during peak times) for gin enthusiasts from around the world. 

This involves a guided tour through the distillery, with an opportunity to learn about the distilling process including their key botanicals, watching the production area up close and sampling their gins whilst overlooking Kirkwall harbour.

The team also offers a gin-making experience, during which visitors can craft their own gin recipe – under the guidance of their distiller – using over 30 different botanicals. 

The distillery has become popular with local people too, as the distillery has a coffee and gin bar open to all, as well as a retail area and function space for events.

Earlier this year, the distillery entered the Great Taste 2019 Awards, organised by the Guild of Fine Food, which recognises high quality food and drink producers. Two of their gins – Aurora Gin and Kirkjuvagr Gin – were awarded Great Taste badges for 2019. Aurora was awarded two stars for outstanding and their signature Kirkjuvagr Gin was awarded one star for simply delicious.  

Lee Inkster, VisitScotland Industry Relationship Manager for Orkney, said: “I am thrilled that the team at Orkney Distilling have achieved the coveted Five Stars so quickly. Food and drink are a key part of the visitor experience and visitors spend around 20% of their expenditure on both, so the distillery is a marvellous addition to Orkney’s visitor offering.

“Achieving this status demonstrates that Katie and her team have put in a tremendous effort to provide a very high level of service to their guests, and I would like to congratulate them for that. 

“Gin and its associated distilleries are fast becoming a popular attraction for our visitors, keen to experience – and take away – an authentic and locally-produced drink. 

“I hope their success is an inspiration to others to strive for a Five Star award, which helps to promote these beautiful islands.” 

Katie Macleod, Operations Manager at Orkney Distillery, said: “We are extremely proud that we have achieved this Five Star award. We try and provide an exceptional experience for everyone visiting the distillery and this recognition is brilliant for the team. 

“It will hopefully help people to find us and we look forward to welcoming more visitors over the coming year.”